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USOF Scheme for Aspirational Districts in 5 states

  • 22 Nov 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) scheme for provisioning of 4G-based mobile services in uncovered villages of aspirational districts across five states — Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Odisha.

  • NITI Aayog's Aspirational Districts programme aims to quickly and effectively transform 112 most under-developed districts across the country.

Key Points

  • About:
    • It envisages to provide 4G based mobile services in the 7,287 uncovered villages of 44 Aspirational Districts across five States. It would be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
    • It will enhance digital connectivity useful for self-reliance, facilitate learning, dissemination of information and knowledge, skill upgradation and development, disaster management, e-Governance initiatives, establishment of enterprises & e-commerce facilities, etc.
    • It seeks to fulfill the vision of Digital India promoting domestic manufacturing and fulfilling the objectives of Atmanirbhar Bharat etc.
  • Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF):
    • About:
      • USOF ensures that there is universal non-discriminatory access to quality ICT (Information and Communications Technology) services at economically efficient prices to people in rural and remote areas.
      • It was created under the Ministry of Communications in 2002.
      • It is a non-lapsable fund, i.e., the unspent amount under a targeted financial year does not lapse and is accrued for next years’ spending.
      • All credits to this fund require parliamentary approval and it has statutory support under Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act, 2003.
    • Objectives:
      • Economic: Network extension & stimulate uptake of the ICT services
      • Social: Mainstreaming the underserved & un-served areas/groups by bridging the Access Gap.
      • Political: to enable citizens exercise their political rights in an informed way and
      • Constitutional: Equitable distribution of the fruits of the telecom/digital revolution and fair allocation of national resources (pooled USO levy) via targeted subsidies.
    • Significance:
      • The rural areas get the Village Public Telephones (VPTs), Rural Community Phones (RCPs), Rural Household Telephones (RDELs), and mobile infrastructure.
      • With access to affordable telecom services in remote and rural areas it can help stemming urban migration and ensure generating employment opportunities in the rural areas.
      • The increased awareness of ICT services in the rural areas and growing participation of the rural people will help promote facilities related to health, education etc.
      • It can ensure the growth of Rural Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs-Rural) and Rural Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPOs-Rural.)
      • USOF is also perceived as the right tool to extend the benefits of the government schemes aimed at the social development of the rural population.

Source: PIB

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